Now that the Liberal government has set a definite time frame to legalize cannabis in Canada, with July 1, 2018 being the deadline, the debate around legalization has broadened with surprisingly little vocal opposition.
The federal government has set the legal minimum age to buy weed at 18 but provinces have the discretion to set that age higher if they wish.
The Liberals have also decreed that people will be allowed to grow four plants per household for personal use.
Judging from coverage in the media on the pros and cons of legalization, discussion seems to focus on issues regarding health, impaired driving and the effects on students’ performance at school and while these and many other matters are legitimate concerns, it is apparent that there is overwhelming consensus that the time has come to normalize the use of cannabis.
Considering the amount of young people who already smoke marijuana, many of them barely in their teens, a positive outcome of legalization may be that open conversations about the negative effects of smoking weed may provide a greater deterrent than the “just say no,” campaigns.
Putting all arguments about legalization aside, the primary focus regarding weed should be its detrimental effects on adolescents. Few would argue that young people at a decisive period in their physical, emotional, intellectual and social development would not be negatively affected by smoking weed.
Many fear that legalization will lead to an increase in consumption but looking at other countries that does not appeared to happen.
I have seen members of the RCMP wringing their hands about how to enforce the four plants per household law while there is very little scrutiny of the big operations gearing up to capitalize on the change in the law.
Once the production of marijuana gets rolling big producers will become competitive and rather than settle for existing markets will expand by encouraging greater consumption.
While government talks a good line about health and controls, the way the situation is being configured there already appears to be a bias in favour of large producers.
According to Fortune.com, following the government’s announcement, March 27, on legalization, Canadian marijuana stocks rose substantially.
“Shares of Canopy Growth Corp. were up 11%, Aurora Cannabis rose 10%, Aphria up 7.9%, SupremePharma jumped 6%, OrganiGram holdings rose 10%, and Emblem Corp rose 6%. The corporate sounding names of these companies is also an indication of the radical changes coming to cannabis culture.
It is a blatant double standard that while Toronto police conduct raids on marijuana dispensaries, arrest over 100 people and lay hundreds of charges that at the same time cannabis can be traded on the stock exchange.
The prime minister took the time recently to remind Canadians that marijuana is still illegal but ignored the fact that while it cannot be sold on the street it can be traded on TSE.
The conversation should now move from legalization to why legalization calls for large commercialized producers and big business.
Ironically, with tight government controls and government’s affinity with big business, the people who did the infantry work to bring about these changes will once again be marginalized, which for them must be a real downer.